[Acute traumatic rupture of the thoracic aorta and its branches. Results of surgical management]

F Bouchart, J P Bessou, A Tabley, P Y Litzler, C Haas-Hubscher, M Redonnet, R Soyer
Annales de Chirurgie 2001, 126 (3): 201-11

STUDY AIM: The aim of this retrospective study was to report a series of 102 patients with acute traumatic rupture of the thoracic aorta and its branches (TRA) and to evaluate long-term results.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: From April 1977 to April 2000, 102 patients with RTA were admitted to our unit. Age ranged between 12 and 74 years (mean age: 33 years). Localisation was: ascending aorta (n = 3), aortic arch (n = 1), isthmus (n = 92), descending aorta (n = 1), innominate artery (n = 3), and left subclavian artery (n = 2). Associated injuries mainly included craniocerebral lesions (n = 76), rib fractures (n = 68), and thoracic (n = 38), and abdominal (n = 24) lesions. Average time between trauma and surgery was 37 hours. Aortography was used routinely for diagnosis. Five patients were inoperable; the procedure was delayed in three patients. In all but two patients with rupture of the isthmus, descending aorta and subclavian artery, the operation included venous arterial femorofemoral assistance. Rupture was partial in 37 patients (37 direct sutures), and complete in 55 patients (40 direct sutures). In two cases of left subclavian artery desinsertion, the operation included suture of the aortic tear and reimplantation of the artery. In patients with rupture of the ascending aorta and aortic arch, surgery was carried out under cardiopulmonary bypass with deep hypothermia for aortic arch rupture. Repair consisted of direct suture. In patients with rupture of the innominate artery, the lesion was treated under cardiopulmonary bypass by direct suture. In five cases, abdominal injuries required emergency procedure before aortic repair.

RESULTS: Four patients died. No postoperative paraplegia occurred. The high morbidity rate was in relation to the associated injuries. Among the 93 survivors, the aortic clinical status was satisfactory in 91 patients (two patients were lost to follow-up). Two patients died from cancer and myocardial infarction 2 and 7 years later respectively. One patient had prosthetic sepsis and was reoperated on with homograft. Angiographic control by aortography (n = 60) and angioMRI (n = 22) was normal in 76 patients. There were five stenoses at the level of the prosthesis, four with a gradient < 20 mmHg and one with a gradient > 50 mmHg and one aneurysm at the level of the isthmus. These last two patients were reoperated on with good result.

CONCLUSION: RTA remains a surgical emergency with multiple difficulties. Despite the development of new imaging modalities, angiography remains the gold standard for the work-up of these patients. Venous arterial femorofemoral assistance with a pump remains the best procedure in order to avoid paraplegia and vascular prosthesis implantation when possible. Endovascular stent graft insertion, although still under investigation, holds tremendous promise for non-surgical treatment of these patients.

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